DHS surveys collect primary data using three types of core questionnaires. A Household questionnaire is used to collect information on characteristics of the household's dwelling unit, and data related to the height and weight for women and children in the household. It is also used to identify members of the household who are eligible for an individual interview. Eligible respondents are then interviewed using an individual Women's or Men's questionnaire. For special information on topics that are not contained in the core questionnaires, optional Questionnaire Modules are available.
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Most country surveys collect information on basic demographic and health topics. The Core Questionnaires for MEASURE DHS emphasizes basic indicators and flexibility. In a majority of DHS surveys eligible individuals include women of reproductive age (15-49) and men age (15-59), or in some cases (15-54). In some countries only women are interviewed. Individual questionnaires include information on marriage, fertility, family planning, reproductive health, child health, and HIV/AIDS.
Each survey is different, with questions that diverge from the standard. The questionnaires used in one country, while containing essentially the same information, may be different in many ways from those used in another country. It is also important to understand that model questionnaires change frequently over time. For example, the DHS questionnaires have changed significantly since the first phase (DHS I). As a result, the model questionnaire has changed with each MEASURE DHS phase.
It was also recognized that some countries have a need for special information on topics that are not contained in the core questionnaires. To accommodate this need and to achieve some level of comparability across countries that applied them, optional Questionnaire Modules were developed on a series of topics.
The DHS Model Survey Questionnaires in the latest project phase are substantially longer than previous model DHS Questionnaires, primarily because they incorporate topics formerly addressed in separate modules—topics such as to malaria, HIV prevalence, information on orphans and vulnerable children, and support for chronically ill household members.
The "Household Questionnaire" contains information on the following topics:
- Household listing: For every usual member of the household and visitor, information is collected about age, sex, relationship to the head of the household, education, and parental survivorship and residence.
- Household characteristics: Questions ask about the source of drinking water, toilet facilities, cooking fuel, and assets of the household. In areas with a high prevalence of malaria, questions about the use of bed nets in the household are added.
- Nutritional status and anemia: The height and weight of women age 15–49 and young children are measured to assess nutritional status. For the same individuals, the level of hemoglobin in the blood is measured to assess the level of anemia.
The "Women's Questionnaire" contains information on the following topics:
- Background characteristics: Questions on age, marital status, education, employment, and place of residence provide information on characteristics likely to influence demographic and health behavior.
- Reproductive behavior and intentions: Questions cover dates and survival status of all births, pregnancies that did not end in a live birth, current pregnancy status, fertility preferences, and future childbearing intentions of each woman.
- Contraception: Questions cover knowledge and use of specific contraceptive methods, source of contraceptive methods, exposure to family planning messages, informed choice, and unmet needs for family planning. For women not using contraception, questions are included on knowledge of a source of contraception and intentions about future use.
- Antenatal, delivery, and postpartum care: The questionnaire collects information on antenatal and postpartum care, place of delivery, who attended the delivery, birth weight, and the nature of complications during pregnancy for recent births.
- Breastfeeding and nutrition: Questions cover feeding practices, the length of breastfeeding, and children's consumption of liquids and solid food.
- Children's health: Questions examine immunization coverage, vitamin A supplementation, recent occurrences of diarrhea, fever, and cough for young children and treatment of childhood diseases.
- Status of women: The questionnaire asks about various aspects of women's empowerment, including decision making and autonomy, and about attitudes towards domestic violence.
- AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections: Questions assess women's knowledge of AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, the sources of their knowledge about AIDS, knowledge about ways to avoid getting AIDS, and high-risk sexual behavior.
- Husband's background: Currently married women are asked about the age, education, and occupation of their husbands.
- Other topics: Questions examine behavior related to environmental health and the use of tobacco.
The "Men’s Questionnaire" is similar to but shorter than the Women’s Questionnaire. It collects information on the following topics:
- Background characteristics: Questions on age, education, employment status, religion, and place of residence are included to provide information on characteristics likely to influence men's behavior.
- Reproduction: Data are collected on the number of children that the man has fathered in his lifetime, survival status of births, number of women he has fathered children with, antenatal and delivery care for the last child born in the previous 3 years, and man’s knowledge on feeding practices for children with diarrhea. Questions are also asked about fertility preferences and future childbearing intentions of each man.
- Knowledge and use of contraception: Questions are designed to determine knowledge and use of specific family planning methods. Men are also asked about their exposure to family planning messages through both the media and health professionals, about the most fertile days in a woman’s cycle, and condom (male and female) sources.
- Employment and gender roles: Men are asked about their employment and occupation, as well as about their attitude towards various aspects of women's empowerment, such as decision making, childbearing, women’s autonomy, and domestic violence.
- AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections: Questions assess men's knowledge of AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, the sources of their knowledge about AIDS, knowledge about ways to avoid getting AIDS, and high-risk sexual behavior.
- Other health issues: Men are asked about various health issues such as tuberculosis, circumcision, injections, use of tobacco, and health and care for their children.
Optional modules are available on a variety of topics. Many original modules have been incorporated into the Core Questionnaire.
Current modules include:
- Domestic Violence
- Female Genital Cutting
- Maternal Mortality
- Out-of-pocket Health Expenditures
Information about Antimicrobial Resistance Module for Population-Based Surveys.
Modules from previous phases include:
- Domestic Violence
- Female Genital Cutting
- Maternal Mortality
- Pill failure and behavior
- Sterilization Experience
- Women’s Status